Windows Server 2012 R2 preview

If you want, you can insist that devices are signed up for the new Workplace Join option, which stores their details in Active Directory using the new Device Registration Service (in Preview this is available for Windows 8.1 Preview and iOS devices), and can be used to make them use secondary authentication.

You can also set a 'lockout' time where users who have typed their password wrong too many times cannot access apps remotely for a set period, and disable access for lost devices in Active Directory.

File syncing

Work folders only need the normal file share role. You can mark specific shares to be accessible to remote users, again using their Windows login. Files are synced offline, so users can access server files when they're on a plane and if they create new files these are automatically copied back to the server.

You can specify a single folder on the server rather than syncing the entire file share and screen out files by type (no MP3s for example), but users cannot pick and choose which files and folders to sync inside.

Initially it only works with Windows 8.1, but it will support Windows 7 soon after Server 2012 R2 is released, and iPad users will at least be able to access work folders remotely in future. Again, you can require workplace join or secondary authentication and you can revoke access if someone leaves the company.

Work folders are easier to set up than ADFS and the Web Application Proxy – and useful to more companies – although without selective sync they can't act as a replacement for the still-fragile offline files.

R2 work folders

Choose specific folders to make available remotely and they will sync on Windows 8.1 PCs

It will become more powerful when the next version of Windows Intune, Microsoft's PC and mobile device management service, lets you selectively wipe company data from devices when employees leave. Intune will increasingly be the way to manage how PCs, tablets and phones can take advantage of the features you enable in Windows Server 2012 R2.

The preview shows that this will be a powerful server release that isn't overly complicated for the small business, but you need to start thinking of Intune to make the most of Windows Server for your users.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.